By Paul Adkins
MAN – The Man High School football team has been hard at work.
As the 2013 prep football season is about to begin the Hillbillies are united and motivated and have one common goal.
Improvement each week.
Each snap of the football.
After three straight losing grid campaigns following Man’s trip to the Super Six in Wheeling in 2009, the Billies are looking to turn the corner.
Losing has become a habit the last three years as Man has gone 4-6, 2-8 and 2-8.
The Billies are looking to break that habit this fall and could very well have the team to do it.
With plenty of returning talent to go along with the usual good crop of incoming freshmen, Man seems to be on the up-and-up this fall.
But in all fairness, Man’s record the last three seasons might have been somewhat deceiving as the Class A Billies play one of the toughest schedules in the state for a Single-A school with Double-A and even Triple-A teams on the slate year in and year out.
Man might be a Class A school but over the last several years have played a 2A schedule.
Man has somewhat lightened its heavy load this season by dropping Class AA teams Mingo Central and Roane County and adding Class A southern West Virginia teams Sherman and Van from Boone County.
That could be good news for the Hillbillies as the Bulldogs and the Tide were a combined 3-16 last season.
A couple more wins and a break here and there and the Billies hope to be in playoff contention.
Man coach Harvey Arms, who has led the Billies to four Class A playoff appearances in 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2009, two Single-A quarterfinals and a berth in the Class A state championship game, enters his 12th season at the helm this autumn. He said he hopes his team can turn things around real quick.
“We’ve had three real tough seasons in a row,” Arms said. “That’s our aim – to try and turn this thing around. We feel like the kids are working hard and they have got that on their minds. It looks real good on paper but we have to get it done on the field.”
One thing is for certain.
Man has a lot of veteran players coming back.
The Billies lost just four starters due to graduation from last year’s youthful squad.
“One of our strengths this year should be our experience,” Arms said. “Last year, we had a really young team and there were a lot of kids that hadn’t played a lot. This year, we have a whole group of kids that have played all of last season. At this point, they are catching on a lot faster than last year and they are grabbing onto the new things better. Experience should be our biggest advantage this year.”
Arms said his team is motivated to have its first winning season since the “Goats and Glory” team of 2009 which made it all the way to the carpet in Wheeling.
“It’s important to them to get over the experience of last year and make things better this year,” Arms said.
The offensive side of the ball, Man is led by sophomore quarterback John Thomas Keffer (5-11, 218), who started all 10 games last season as a freshman.
“John is a real knowledgeable kid out there on the field. He’s been in athletics all of his life and he comes from an athletic family,” Arms said. “He understands the game well. For a young guy, he’s also a good leader on the field for us. We’ve seen a lot of improvement in everything because he’s the kind of guy that stays with it and works with it. He’s improved. His arm is stronger and he’s a little quicker. He’s got a year of growth and a year of maturity. That has make him a better player.”
Senior Cayce Mullins (6-1, 216) and freshman Josh Vanover (5-5, 114) are the backup QBs. Vanover will likely be Man’s JV starter.
At running back, Man returns Braden Griffin (5-11, 167 junior), Neil Mullins (5-8, 264 junior), Noah Maynard (5-11, 225 senior) and Tracy Jones (5-10, 155 senior), who split time at receiver and in the backfield last season.
“We will probably be running back by committee,” Arms said. “But all four of those players had decent seasons last year. We’ve got a lot to look at there. Plus, we have some young guys who are also looking pretty good, too.”
Since Man’s offense in Arms’ system has always been run-heavy, having a good quartet of backs should give the Billies plenty of firepower.
“The running game is always important to us,” Arms said.
At tight end Man has a good one in returning starter Gage Harvey (6-3, 232 senior).
“He’s grown some and he’s got another year of maturity,” Arms said. “His hands are better and he’s catching the ball better. We look for big things out of him.”
Jones will be one of Man’s main targets at the wideout position when he’s not on the backfield.
“He’s probably our fastest player,” Arms said of Jones.
Sophomore Ross Osborne (6-0, 136) also figures into Man’s plans at wide receiver.
“He’s looking good and he’s catching the ball well,” Arms said of Osborne.
Freshman Tyler Grimmett (6-3, 158) and sophomore Tanner Bailey (6-2, 167) are two other options at flanker.
“They are both looking good a practice,” Arms said.
The Billies return some of their offensive line from last year.
Jeremiah Beavers (6-2, 221 senior) is back but will be switching from guard to offensive tackle. Starting guard Joey Buchanon (5-9, 163 senior) also returns.
“We have some linemen who are back and played last year but we’re going to have good competition for both the offensive and defensive line positions,” Arms said.
Sophomore Christian McCoy (6-1, 245), a first-year player, and junior Dustin Hurley (6-4, 364 junior) are also pressing for playing time on the O-line. Hurley, another newcomer to the team, is Man’s biggest player.
Thomas Holt (5-11, 235 senior) and Justin McDaniels (5-10, 224 senior) are also back out for the team after sitting out last season and could also help on the line, Arms said.
Dakota Toth (5-1, 221 senior), who initially started last season at tight end but was moved to the offensive line, is back this fall as well for the Billies and should contribute.
On the defensive line, Neil Mullins is a returning starter at tackle. Harvey, who also started some in 2012 on the D-line, also returns as well as Beavers.
The Billies should be solid at linebacker as four starters are back in Cayce Mullins, Robert Caudill (6-1, 215 senior), Toth and Maynard.
“That is a tough, experienced group of kids,” Arms said of his linebacking corps. “We’re looking for good play out of them and also for leadership. They’ve been through it and they are experienced players.”
Jones returns to his starting post in the Man secondary as well as Griffin, Bryce Goff (5-9, 148 junior) and Osborne. Grimmett and Bailey also are looking to make contributions.
Mikle Scott Rowe (5-10, 213 junior) and Jones will most likely punt for the Billies this season.
“They both have been punting the ball pretty well for us,” Arms said.
Man entered preseason camp in early August with the kicking job wide open.
The Man High School football team will have some new opponents to face off against this fall.
The Hillbillies have added fellow Class A teams Sherman and Van to the 2013 schedule. The Tide and the Bulldogs replace Class AA squads Mingo Central and Roane County.
Man, which is slated to open the season on Aug. 30 at home against Class AAA county rival Logan, will take on Sherman on Oct. 18 at Seth in Week 8 of the season. The Billies will close out the campaign on Nov. 8 at home against Van.
“We dropped Roane County and Mingo Central,” Arms said. “We picked up Sherman and Van. We are playing a lot of teams in the classes above us and it has to be tough. Of course, the Single-A teams that we play are always pretty tough, too. That’s what it’s about. It’s competition and it makes you get better. You don’t get a lot out of games when you are not playing against good competition.”
After opening the season at home against Logan, Man goes to Class AA Mount View on Sept. 6 and then to 2A Westside on Sept. 13 before hosting 2A River View on Sept. 20.
Man’s open date is Sept. 27 and that is followed by a road game at Class A Fayetteville on Oct. 4. Then on Oct. 11, Man hosts 2A county rival Chapmanville on Oct. 11 before playing at Sherman the following week.
The Billies then close out on Oct. 25 at home against Pocahontas County before playing at Single-A Tug Valley on Nov. 1 and then at home against the Van Bulldogs on Nov. 8.
Man’s wins last year were over Mount View (20-12) and Fayetteville (48-13). Man lost a close one in Week 9 with a 7-6 setback at Pocahontas County. Man was also competitive in defeats to River View (22-13) and Tug Valley (30-24).
Man’s two new foes struggled last season.
Sherman was only 1-9 in 2012, while Van was just 2-7.
The Tide’s lone win was a 32-0 victory over Hannan. Sherman lost to Tug Valley (46-26), Wyoming East (38-8), Liberty Raleigh (40-0), Independence (47-7), St. John Central, Ohio (14-6), Sissonville (72-12), Meadow Bridge (40-7) and Van (28-7).
In addition to the victory over Sherman last season, Van also won 44-18 over Paden City. The Bulldogs fell in 2012 to Meadow Bridge (38-6), Valley Fayette (20-0), Midland Trail (37-14), Mount View (26-6), Clay-Battelle (49-6), Tug Valley (40-20) and Greenbrier West (46-28).
The Billies hope to have a good season of football.
“It always comes down to what you do on the field,” Arms said. “On paper, it’s looking pretty good but you don’t play on paper. We have got to get on the field and get the job done. We’re still young because we have a lot of sophomores and juniors. We have some good ninth-graders coming in. The middle school had a real good team last year. They had some guys with some size but we have got to get it done on the field.”
Man is also looking to possibly join a Class A conference in 2014.
Man has reportedly been in talks with Tug Valley, Sherman, Van and Buffalo in recent months to form a new league. At least three other schools have been mentioned as well as possible members.
Arms said if the league is a go it wouldn’t begin play until the 2014-15 school year.
Because of school consolidation, Man has had trouble scheduling games over the last few seasons, particularly in football.
Typically, Man plays one of the toughest schedules in the state for a Single-A school as the Billies have played Class AAA Logan and 2A teams Chapmanville, Wyoming East, Westside, River View, Mount View with regularity over the last several seasons.
The last two years, Man played a two-game home-and-home series with Class AA Mingo Central — a consolidation of the old Matewan, Williamson, Gilbert and Burch high schools in Mingo County.
Since Man went Single-A the Billies have also played football games against Class AA teams Roane County and the old Iaeger High School as well as Double-A Scott.
Man was once a Triple-A school and last played in a conference in the 1990s when the Billies were a member of the Mountain State Athletic Conference.
But in the late 1990s, Man dropped down to Class AA and played an independent schedule. Further decline in enrollment dropped Man down to Single-A status in the 2000s.
Coach Arms has the same coaching staff as last year with James Toth, Charles Collins and Bill Lusk.
Arms hopes this is the year the Billies can make some noise.
“We do have guys now that understand how you’ve got to be out there on the field,” Arms said. “Last season, looking back, we had just too many turnovers and turnovers at crucial times. That cost us several ballgames that we felt that we were close in and that if we would have protected the ball better we could have won. That’s key to us this year. We’ve got to hold onto the ball. We can’t give up those turnovers.”
2013 Man High School
Aug. 30: Logan, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 6: at Mount View, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 13: at Westside, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 20: River View, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 27: OPEN DATE
Oct. 4: at Fayetteville, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 11: Chapmanville (Homecoming), 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 18: at Sherman, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 25: Pocahontas County, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 1: at Tug Valley, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 8: Van, 7:30 p.m.
2013 Man High School Football Roster
No Pos Name Gr Ht Wt
1 E Ross Osborne 10 6’ 136
2 RB Bryce Goff 11 5’9 148
3 E Cayce Mullins 12 6’1 216
5 RB Mikle Rowe 11 5’10 213
6 RB Dustin McCoy 9 5’11 174
10 RB Robert Caudill 12 6’1 215
12 E Dakota Toth 12 6’1 221
15 RB Allen Files 9 5’5 126
17 QB Joshua Vanover 9 5’5 114
19 QB John Keffer 10 5’11 218
20 RB Kyle Browning 9 5’8 141
22 E Patrick Wiley 11 6’ 146
24 RB Braden Griffin 11 5’11 167
25 E Tanner Bailey 10 6’2 167
26 RB Jacob Frye 9 5’9 205
28 E Tracy Jones 12 5’10 155
31 RB Seth Chapman 9 5’10 219
32 RB Noah Maynard 12 5’11 225
33 E Nick Collins 9 5’10 142
40 RB Neil Mullins 11 5’8 264
42 E Tyler Grimmett 9 6’3 158
44 RB Damian White 11 5’9 209
45 E Jacob Copeland 9 5’11 170
50 T Caleb Adkins 11 5’11 253
51 T Dewey Tackett 9 5’11 230
52 T Jeremiah Beavers 12 6’2 221
53 G Jordan Wright 10 5’11 180
54 T Christian McCoy 10 6’1 245
55 G Thomas Holt 12 5’11 235
58 G Justin McDaniels 12 5’10 224
60 G Joey Buchanon 12 5’9 163
61 T Austin Bragg 9 6’ 240
62 C Gage Whitt 12 5’9 226
63 C Jaxxon Ellis 10 6’1 246
64 C Jace Duba 10 5’9 208
65 T Austin Compton 10 6’2 229
66 T Jacob Asbury 9 6’ 309
68 G Tyler Vance 10 5’11 222
69 G Trevor Toler 9 5’11 225
70 G Ritchie Nelson 10 6’1 236
71 T Zachary Chippent 10 6’1 265
74 G David Brown 9 5’9 252
75 C Grant Gambill 10 5’11 277
76 T Dustin Hurley 11 6’4 364
77 T James Roberts 10 5’10 365
79 T Zachary Tackett 12 6’1 396
85 E Larry Browning 12 6’3 211
86 E Gage Harvey 11 6’3 232
HEAD COACH: Harvey Arms
ASSISTANTS: James Toth, Bill Lusk, Charles Collins